A Professional Guide for Women in the Construction Industry
Historically, construction has been viewed as a man’s career. However, women increasingly are becoming involved in the industry as these cultural barriers diminish. The construction industry offers a wide variety of career options, ranging from seasonal workers to engineers to project managers to architects.
Many of these careers also offer unique opportunities, such as flexibility, financial security, and even a chance to impact your city’s appearance, infrastructure, and culture. As such, as more women get involved in this career path, they may have more professional opportunities, as well as more means of making their mark in their communities.
Statistics About Women in Construction
As of 2020, women made up almost 11% of the construction workforce, which constitutes a 2% increase since 2010. For those who do, the majority work in professional and management, sales and office, or service occupations. Meanwhile, very few work in production, transportation, or maintenance.
Benefits of Working in Construction as a Woman
As the construction industry comprises a great diversity of careers, it is important to keep in mind that the benefits of a career in this field will depend on your specific role. However, generally speaking, some common benefits of working in the construction industry include:
- Good job security;
- Daily physical activity on the job;
- Opportunities to be outdoors on the job;
- Opportunities to impact the aesthetic and function of your community;
- Good salary, depending on your position and location;
- Ease of entry;
- Diverse advancement opportunities;
- Availability of career options that don’t require formal education;
- Availability of seasonal and flexible career options;
All of these opportunities represent options for both individual women and women at large to get their foot in the door in a long-enduring industry that significantly impacts the world around them.
Challenges of Working in Construction as a Woman
The construction industry comprises a great diversity of careers, and it is important to keep in mind that the challenges will depend on your specific role. However, generally speaking, some common challenges of working in the construction industry include:
- The physical demands of manual labor;
- Inconsistent, seasonal hours;
- The need to sometimes work under harsh conditions;
- The need to sometimes work outside the typical 9-5;
- Strict contract terms;
- Substantial consequences for failure to meet standards or expectations;
- Varying costs of materials;
- Relatively high potential for workplace injury;
- Many potential causes of project delays;
- Evolving technologies.
Women in the construction industry may also feel increased pressure to perform above expectations to gain or maintain respect within their industry and their client base.
Career Development for Women in Construction
Because there are so many different career options within the construction industry, as well as a relatively low threshold for entry into the industry, there are often significant career development opportunities. This can be a huge boon for women who have their foot in the door and want to climb the career ladder. How you do this will depend on factors such as your education, your location, your current role, and your goals. However, generally speaking, some good options include:
- Networking within the industry, especially in areas that you are interested in;
- Attending conferences and trade shows;
- Building professional profiles on sites such as LinkedIn;
- Pursuing any helpful certifications, licenses, or degrees;
- Requesting opportunities to shadow other professionals in the industry;
- Finding a mentor;
- Finding communities or other resources that will support you.
Starting a Construction Business as a Woman
Ownership of a construction business is one of the most lucrative and rewarding career paths within the industry. Women who obtain such a position can gain significant financial security, status within the industry, and opportunities to leave their mark on the communities that they work in. Additionally, these women, in particular, can further open the door for other women who intend to or already work in the construction industry.
However, starting a business is no easy task, and may be an even taller order for a woman facing challenges like prejudice and limitations of opportunity. As such, it is important for women who are interested in starting a construction business to understand all of the ins-and-outs before they dive in. You should always research your industry and develop a detailed business plan before you begin establishing your business.
Registering Your Construction Business
Typical steps for registering a construction business include:
- Choose your business structure and accordingly register as a sole proprietorship, LLC, C-corporation, or S-corporation.
- Acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
- Register with state agencies as required.
- Register with local agencies as required.
- Acquire any necessary contractors’ licenses.
Many forms of necessary registration will depend on factors such as what type of work your business will be doing and the registration requirements of your local area. Therefore, much of the specifics in this area will require some independent research.
Licenses, Certifications, Permits & Insurance
The licenses, certifications, permits, and insurance that you will need will depend on the type of business, your location, and the needs of individual projects. However, types of documentation that are often needed include:
- General contractors’ and specialty contractors’ licenses;
- Necessary permits for individual projects;
- General liability insurance;
- Professional liability insurance;
- Pollution liability insurance;
- Commercial vehicle insurance;
- Surety bonds;
- Workers’ compensation.
Some of this documentation needs to be held for the full duration of business operations, while others will only need to be held temporarily for individual projects.
Women-Owned Business Certification
Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting program limits competitions for contracts for participating businesses. The initiative is available for women-owned businesses in industries where women are underrepresented, and is intended to boost opportunities for such businesses to establish themselves and thrive within these select industries, including construction.
Eligibility requirements to be certified as a WOSB include:
- Proof of status as a small business owner;
- Proof that at least 51% of the business is owned and controlled by women;
- Proof that women are involved in day-to-day operations as well as long-term decisions.
Further eligibility requirements to be certified as an EDWOSB (Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business) include:
- Meeting the requirements of the WOSB Federal Contracting program;
- Proof that the business is owned and controlled by at least one woman, and that all documented owners who are women have a personal net worth that is less than $750,000;
- Proof that the business is owned and controlled by at least one woman, and that all documented owners who are women have $350,000 or less in adjusted gross income averaged over the previous three years;
- Proof that the business is owned and controlled by at least one woman, and that all documented owners who are women have $6 million or less in personal assets.
To acquire a WOSB certification, you will need to apply for certification on beta.certify.sba.gov. Thereafter, you will need to maintain certification by annually attesting that your business continues to meet requirements, as outlined in 13 CFR 127. You will also need to submit to examination every three years by the SBA (Small Business Administration) or a third-party certifier.
Grants, Loans, and Other Resources for Women Starting a Business
Helpful resources for women starting a business include:
- Grants.gov: This is a database of grants sponsored by the federal government.
- Women’s Business Centers: These are a series of SBA-sponsored organizations across the U.S. that connect women entrepreneurs with business development and funding opportunities.
- Economic Development Administration: This agency provides technical and financial resources for businesses within economically-disadvantaged communities.
- Small Business Development Centers: This is a program partnered with the SBA that offers a wide range of business development resources through local agencies.
- SoGal Startup Grant: This opportunity offers grant and mentorship opportunities for Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs.
Growing Your Construction Business as a Woman
Getting your business off the ground is only the first step. Thereafter, it will be important to take steps to ensure that your business can grow and thrive. What this will entail will depend on your specific business and your goals for it. However, some general measures will typically be helpful regardless of these specifics.
Networking, Mentoring, and Conferences
Networking, mentoring, and conferences are all opportunities to learn from established members of the construction industry and to find job opportunities and resources that you might otherwise miss out on. Notable opportunities for this purpose in the construction industry include:
- Professional networking websites such as LinkedIn;
- Trade associations like ABC, CMAA, AIC, AGC, DBIA;
- Trade shows and conferences;
- Mentorship programs;
- Opportunities to shadow other construction professionals.
Marketing is vital for any business, and it can be a difficult facet to navigate, as your marketing needs and capabilities will depend on many factors, such as your business, your location, your resources, your customer base, the size of your business, and your long-term business goals. Once you have assessed these factors, however, good options for marketing include:
- Print advertisement;
- Television and radio advertisement;
- Digital marketing;
- Social media marketing;
- Search engine marketing;
- Website development;
- Email marketing;
- Referral marketing;
- Affiliate marketing;
- Discount marketing;
Grants, Loans, and Other Resources for Women Building Their Business
Resources for women who want to grow and develop their business include:
- Amber Grant: This organization offers grants to women entrepreneurs based in the U.S. or Canada on a monthly and annual basis.
- Dream Big Awards: This is a cash prize opportunity for small businesses that is hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and which features a Woman-Owned Business Achievement Award.
- Nav $10,000 Small Business Grant: This is a grant opportunity offered to growing businesses quarterly.
- NASE Growth Grants: These are grants of up to $4,000 for small businesses that are members of the NASE and can demonstrate need.
- Cartier Women’s Initiative Award: This is a grant offered on an annual basis to 21 female entrepreneurs worldwide. The opportunity also offers mentorship benefits, and is specifically granted to businesses between 1 and 3 years of age.
Women in Construction Week
Women in Construction Week is celebrated in March to coincide with International Women’s Day. The celebration is meant to highlight women in the construction industry and raise awareness about opportunities for support and advancement. The celebration was established by and largely driven by the National Association of Women in Construction. Girls and women who are still in school may particularly benefit from Women in Construction Week, as the initiative largely focuses on presentations within educational institutions.
Additional Resources for Women in the Construction Industry
Further resources that may benefit women in the construction industry include:
- National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC): This national organization offers educational opportunities, networking options, and other resources for women in the construction industry.
- Professional Women in Construction (PWC): Major chapters of this nonprofit organization are found in many large cities throughout the Eastern United States, and seek to promote the overall interests of women in construction, in addition to providing helpful resources for individual women within that industry.
- Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE): This organization seeks to create and advance leadership opportunities for women in the construction industry.
- Groundbreaking Women in Construction: This is a notable annual conference dedicated to the promotion of women’s interests within the construction industry.
- Women in Skilled Trades (WIST): This is a resource for single moms who are interested in joining a skilled trade.